By Isabelle Ohnemus
The term ‘workaholic’ has never been more relevant; it is a way of life that is seemingly unavoidable in the moment, but can actually be managed better if we allow ourselves to set boundaries. There are a number of reasons behind the workaholic culture of today; there are those who have a huge passion and dedication for what they’re doing and achieving, to those who feel daily mounting pressure from colleagues and competitors in their field. Digital life doesn’t help either: with most people able to access emails or internal messages away from the physical office and outside of working hours, who could blame a person for finding it hard to switch off.
As an entrepreneur, running a startup can make it even more difficult to draw the line between professional and personal life. Work is all-encompassing: the need to constantly educate oneself, to achieve goals and succeed makes it an exhausting life at times. It’s been four years running a startup, so here are a few sustainable and useful ways of maintaining that important healthy balance.
Weekdays vs. Weekends
Structure can be perceived as non-existent in the life of an entrepreneur. Planning ahead and rules are easily scoffed at, with the perception of having the freedom for a leisurely lifestyle and luxurious client meetings clouding the reality of the situation.
As Kelly Gibbons of Main & Rose writes in Fortune, “this is absolutely not true – at least not at any startup that has a serious desire to survive the year. While things are definitely more hectic than at a traditional organisation, they aren’t supposed to be chaotic.”
It is therefore of utmost importance that, as an entrepreneur, you clearly define your boundaries between work and personal life from the very beginning. A solid example to go by is: weekdays for work, weekends for family, friends and reading.
Obviously this can change according to deadlines and social engagements, but generally speaking this structure is a good one as it allows for focus and fewer distractions during the working week, which in turn means that the weekend can be enjoyed fully. Regardless of how crazy things get with business, it is absolutely essential to devote quality time to your loved ones, for both of your sakes.
Be clever with time management
Running your own company does allow you the freedom to think outside of the box when time is not on your side. There will be days when you feel completely swamped and cannot possibly imagine how you’re going to achieve X, Y and Z by the end of the day. This is where you can allow yourself to be a little creative with how you complete your tasks. For example; a trip to the hair salon (which is necessary because you’re presenting at a high-profile event tomorrow) can be combined with catching up on those unopened emails that are starting to clog up your inbox, whilst enjoying a break from the office with a coffee or lunch delivery.
Wellbeing and entrepreneurship are not exclusive entities. You can and must use your time wisely, particularly during a hectic week, to ensure that your tasks are completed with as little stress but high efficiency as possible.
Healthy mind, healthy body
As the Latin phrase goes; mens sana in corpore sano meaning; a healthy mind in a healthy body, unarguably the starting point for any entrepreneur. To be in it for the long game and achieve the best results, you must look after yourself mentally and physically.
Start the day as you mean to go on; a nutritious and energy-laden breakfast and, if you have time, 20 minutes of exercise to help feed and focus the mind. Since self-education is a huge and vital part of running your own business, it is worth setting some time aside at the start of the day to catch up on the latest breaking news in your field. From there your direction should be clear and productive.
It is just as important to set yourself a finish time as well, as Chris Tonkinson is quoted as saying on Infusionsoft: “Setting a firm quitting time each day leads to greater productivity and happier home-life. Counter-intuitive as it seems, this daily deadline keeps me more focused and effective when I am working.”
Ensure to unplug and unwind in the evening; take up a hobby, watch a film or cook a meal for yourself – the mind needs a break from work to ensure a solid night’s sleep and a productive next day. It all rolls into each other.
Be tech savvy
As an entrepreneur, particularly one in tech, there’s no doubt you’ll own a number of devices: each with a different purpose, all with the aim of making your life easier. Use your tech wisely for both personal and professional means. For instance; entrepreneurial life often means travelling overseas, sometimes for periods of time, so make sure you have the best systems in place to make those necessarily seamless calls to clients and your loved ones; ensure you have storage to download business literature, but also TV shows/films/ebooks that will help you disconnect during a break.
“It’s a balance. You are heavy and I’m small. When I’m small, I can jump. You’re heavy. You cannot jump.” said Jack La, founder of Alibaba who practises taiji philosophy
Life as an entrepreneur is busy, varied and rewarding, but it will only stand the test of time if you master the sweet, fine balance between professional and personal life. If you’re running your own company it usually means that you are passionate about that industry; and with passion comes dedication, and dedication means long hours, particularly in the early days. You may not have the traditional 9-5 job but do allow yourself to step away because, ultimately, you will only succeed if you have open-minded, well-rounded lifestyle, enriched with the things you love.
Isabelle Ohnemus, pictured above, is founder and CEO of EyeFitU. Portrait of Isabelle taken by Adriana Tripa